Home West London London mum, 29, could be forced to leave her husband and 1-year-old...

London mum, 29, could be forced to leave her husband and 1-year-old in the UK after already spending ‘over £5000’ on visas

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A West London-based woman struggling to afford a visa to stay in the UK faces having to leave her husband and 1-year-old daughter behind.

Elsa Bouchereau, 29, who was born in the Seychelles but lives in Feltham, moved to the UK in 2018 to live with her husband Ricky after they met while he was visiting Seychelles, and has already spent thousands of pounds on visas in the last three years

Elsa has already been forced to leave Ricky and return to the Seychelles once for a “heartbreaking” six months in 2018 when she lost all £2,500 she had already paid in visa fees, after a miscommunication meant she hadn’t realised she couldn’t apply for it whilst on UK soil and the Home Office refused to refund the money.

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Elsa now faces being forced to leave Ricky again, and this time their 1-year-old daughter Eve too, in addition to potentially losing her London-based job as an operations executive for a UK sightseeing tours company.

Ricky, 35, a warehouse operative in Slough – who was also born in the Seychelles but grew up in the UK from the age of one and has British citizenship – said he can’t bear the thought of Elsa leaving again, as the first time was “heartbreaking.”

Ricky said the last time Elsa had to leave the UK without a visa to stay was ‘absolutely terrible’

Describing being torn apart for six months as “absolutely terrible,” Ricky added: “We’re one of them couples, once we’d been a couple we’d never spent a day apart, we’d literally done everything together.

“It went from literally getting the rejection, to I think a few days having to just pack everything and literally say goodbyes, not knowing when I’d see her again.”

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Ricky said without an immigration lawyer “you literally do not have a clue,” and the couple were caught out, as, “we were unaware that you weren’t allowed to apply within the country, on English soil.”

Ricky said he and Elsa were doubly devastated to learn their fee was non-refundable on top of finding out Elsa would have to leave the country, describing it as “a harsh lesson… we were literally going in blind.”

“We literally lost everything,” the dad, who had to stay behind and work to “keep the requirements going” for another spouse visa for Elsa, said.

Luckily the couple were able to pull together the money to successfully re-apply so Elsa could come back six months later – but not before the cost of applying had risen to £3,000 in January 2019, racking their total bill from the Home Office up to more than £5,000.

Now the couple needs to renew Elsa’s visa once again, at a total cost of over £2,500, to cover her Immigration health surcharge fee (IHS), Biometric permit fee and English exam on top of her application – but “Covid setbacks” have left the couple in financial dire straits.

Ricky is terrified of being parted again, and said if Elsa were to be sent away for a second time it would be “crushing, financially and emotionally.”

Parting would be particularly painful now the couple have Eve, said Ricky, who hopes the Home Office will take a more sympathetic approach now he and Elsa have their daughter to support.

He said: “At that age she needs her mum, there’s certain things that her mum can do for her that I can’t.

“She’s got a woman’s touch.”

Ricky called the process of applying for a UK spouse visa “hostile,” describing how the evidence required to prove his relationship with Elsa, despite them having been married for years, was “so invasive.”

Ricky said: “You can’t send enough of it. The rule is ‘send as much as you can’.

“So literally, I’m talking Facebook messages, I’m talking WhatsApp messages, pictures, everything.

“It’s an invasion of your private life, just to prove to them that we are legitimate and we are together.”

As his wife’s designated ‘sponsor’, Ricky also had to prove he earns enough to support Elsa, letting the Home Office extensively search through all his bank statements, scrutinising payments as small as Uber rides in order to check his finances and what he could or couldn’t afford, as Elsa wouldn’t be entitled to benefits in the UK.

Ricky hopes the “negative connotation on immigration in England” will change, as he said, “I don’t think a lot of people know what people go through.

“We always hear a lot about immigrants using the NHS and stuff like that, but in our case we have to pay over a grand to use the NHS service – it’s like, nothing’s free, we’re not entitled to any benefits.

“My wife, the week she got down here, she got that job straight away, so she’s contributing as anyone else would be, to the economy.

“I just wish, now that I’ve been through it, that people would just see it in a different light.

“I just wish the temperature would lower a bit, on immigration.”

A Home Office spokesperson said they ‘cannot comment on individual cases’, but added: “In certain cases, if an individual cannot afford to pay the fee for their application to remain in the UK, they can request a fee waiver.

“You can only make a fee waiver request if you are making an application to remain in the UK on the basis of family life or private life.”

According to the Home Office website, an application for a fee waiver can be made under the following cases:

  • As a partner or spouse, under the 5-year route, where you do not need to meet the minimum income threshold because your partner is in receipt of one or more specified benefits
  • As a parent, under the 5-year route
  • As a partner, parent or dependant child based on your family life or private life in the UK, under the 10-year route
  • On human rights grounds, including where you were previously refused under the family route but granted “Discretionary Leave” or “leave outside the Rules”
  • To extend your leave as someone who was refused asylum or humanitarian protection and given “Discretionary Leave” instead
  • To extend your leave as a person who was previously granted leave as a victim of trafficking or slavery

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/west-london-news/london-mum-29-could-forced-21915929